Today’s letter is “Y“… we’re going to talk about Yeast!
Yeast is the most critical ingredient in the wine making process. When you pick a wine making yeast you are, in effect, choosing the destiny of your wine. The right yeast or yeasts can transform good grapes into great wine.
Funny story – the very first batch of wine I ever made, I didn’t know there were specific wine yeasts to choose from, so I used what I had on hand – you know where this is going, don’t you? Yep, I used bread yeast! So through a series of unfortunate events, my first batch of wine turned into pungent wine vinegar – the kind that got dumped down the drain. Undrinkable, unusable.
So say no to this:
And yes to these:
The yeast strain you use will determine the style of wine you create, as well as the characteristics that the wine may take on. To determine the best yeast to be used, you should match the yeast strain with the grape or fruit juice variety, and consider the desired style of wine. Yeast contributes so much to wine aside from just making its production possible.
For most of this world’s past 6,000 years of winemaking history, winemakers didn’t even know what yeast was, let alone understand the different strains and what they can do. Only in recent history have we discovered that different strains will produce different characteristics in wine.
The role of yeast in winemaking is the most important element that distinguishes wine from grape juice. In the absence of oxygen, yeast converts the sugars of wine grapes into alcohol and carbon dioxide through the process of fermentation. The more sugars in the grapes, the higher the potential alcohol level of the wine.
You can stop fermentation early in order to leave some residual sugars and sweetness in the wine such as with dessert wines. The best way to do that is by dropping fermentation temperatures to the point where the yeast is inactive, or sterile filtering the wine to remove the yeast or fortification with brandy to kill off the yeast cells.
If fermentation is unintentionally stopped, such as when the yeasts become exhausted of available nutrients, and the wine has not yet reached dryness this is considered a stuck fermentation. It can be restarted with more yeast, however, so all is not lost!
Winemaking is so much fun – at least for me – and am tickled every time I give the wine I make as gifts to friends and family who love drinking it as much as I love making it. While we go through this alphabetical series on winemaking, if you have any burning questions, be sure to ask them in the comments below, and I’ll reply there – and maybe even highlight your specific question(s) in a future post!
Thanks for joining me in this fun adventure!
Here are the links going backwards for your convenience, in case you missed any:
A for Aromas, Acidity and Appearance
B for Barrels, Bottles and Blackberry Wine
C for Color, Clarity, Carboys and Cherry Wine
D for Decanting and Decanters
E for Equipment
F for Fermentation
G for Glass and Grape
H for Harvest
I for Infusion
J for Jeroboam and Jug
K for Kabinett
L for Leaf, Label and Lees
M for Merlot, Muscat and Must
N – the Nose has it!
O for Oak and Oxidation
P for Palate and Press
Q for Quality
R for Racking and Riddling
S for Sweet and Sanitary
T for Taste and Tasting
U for Ullage
V for Verjus
W for Wine, Water, Wood and more!
X for X Marks the Spot?